Taylor Swift Is Facing A Trial Over Plagiarism Accusations In The Lyrics Of "Shake It Off"
A federal judge ruled that the singer must face a jury trial over accusations that she lifted lyrics for her song "Shake It Off" from a 2000 song with the line "playas, they gon' play" and "haters, they gonna hate."
Taylor Swift, riding high on the jubilant reception of her new album release, is going to trial over accusations that she lifted lyrics for her song "Shake It Off" from a 2000 song with the lyrics "playas, they gon' play" and "haters, they gonna hate."
The copyright lawsuit, filed in 2017, alleged that Swift copied the lines "players gonna play" and "haters gonna hate" from a 3LW song, "Playas Gon' Play," written by Sean Hall and Nathan Butler.
The lawsuit was tossed in 2018 by a judge who declared the lyrics "too banal" to be copyrighted. Hall and Butler appealed the ruling, and a court reversed it in 2019, saying that their complaint "still plausibly alleged originality."
Judge Michael Fitzgerald, who originally dismissed the case, denied Swift's request to do so again Thursday.
In his ruling, Fitzgerald wrote that though Swift's team made "persuasive arguments" about how her hit 2014 song is different from "Playas Gon' Play," there is a "possibility that there is still a genuine dispute as to the potential substantial similarity between the lyrics and their sequential structure."
The case will go to a jury trial but a date has not yet been set.
Peter Anderson, who is representing Swift in the lawsuit, did not respond to a request for comment. The singer's spokesperson told the Guardian that the lawsuit "is not a crusade for all creatives, it is a crusade for Mr. Hall’s bank account."
Hall and Butler’s attorney, Marina Bogorad, told BuzzFeed News in a statement that they were "extremely satisfied" with the ruling.
"It reinforces the notion that their unique self-expression based on the deeply rooted cultural heritage cannot be simply snatched away without proper attribution," Bogorad said. "We are pleased that the court refused to engage into a battle of the experts, especially given that defendants’ resources vastly outweigh those of our clients here, and it is about time that justice should serve the merits rather than deep pockets."
On Friday, 3LW posted on social media to clarify that they are not behind the lawsuit, and asked Swift's fans to stop aiming their anger at the group.
"There is nothing but love and respect for Taylor and her team," the group said. "3LW had nothing to do with this case. Please direct all hate elsewhere."
It's not the first time Swift has been sued over her lyrics in "Shake It Off." In 2015, musician Jesse Graham, who has a song called "Haters Gonna Hate," sued her for $42 million, alleging that "Taylor Swift would not have written 'Shake It Off' had he not written 'Haters gone hate.'"
That lawsuit was dismissed by a judge who cited a 2010 Urban Dictionary entry and 3LW's "Playas Gon' Play" as earlier examples of the term being used. Graham's song was released in 2013.
Swift previously waged a public battle against Big Machine Records, her former label, and Scooter Braun, a music manager who bought the company in 2018, for allegedly barring her from performing her songs, whose masters it owns. At the time, Swift asked her fans to "let [Big Machine CEO] Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun know how you feel about this."
In turn, Big Machine said it "continued to honor all of her requests to license her catalog to third parties as she promotes her current record in which we do not financially participate."
Swift later announced that she would rerecord her first six albums. Her latest rerecording release, Red (Taylor's Version), was widely acclaimed.